Ask Amy: Advice For Those Stressed Out At State

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The two appear to be friends, but they might be closer to frenemies. Sean Gallup/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Amy Dickinson writes the syndicated advice column Ask Amy.

Dear Amy,

Some of my friends and I are in trouble. We wrote some things about some of our friends that were supposed to be confidential. Then someone got a hold of our notes and passed them around and now everyone knows the stuff that we thought would be secret.

I admit that some of the things we said weren't very nice, but — hello — it was supposed to be private! Like, if I was talking about someone to his face I wouldn't ever tell him that he and his friend reminded me of Batman and Robin, even if it happened to be true.

And I probably wouldn't say out loud that one of our friends was, like, boring — even though she is so boring that sometimes when I'm with her I feel like I could basically pass out from her sheer torpitude. But look — now I'm doing it again.

Well, what can I say — everybody's mad at us. People are criticizing us and now I feel like that's all anybody is talking about whenever they see us. We can just feel people judging us and even if they don't criticize us to our face, we know what they're thinking.

We just want for things to go back to normal. We want our friends to like us again. What can we do now?

Signed,

Stressed out at State

* * *

Dear Stressed,

The hallmark of a good friendship is trust. And if people think they can't trust you, they're not going to want to hang out with you.

You may catch your frenemies looking at you funny when you're in a receiving line or inspecting the troops. They may not want to sit next to you at the Bolshoi Ballet.

They may even want to punish you by spreading rumors about you or by criticizing you to your face. And who could blame them?

Amy Dickinson

Amy Dickinson is the author of the book The Mighty Queens of Freeville: A Story of Surprising Second Chances. Stephen Cannerelli hide caption

itoggle caption Stephen Cannerelli

That's because they're hurt. When you hurt someone's feelings you have to find a way to try to make things right again.

So you have to stand up and admit what you did, take responsibility for your own actions, apologize, and ask for forgiveness if you need to. This will be uncomfortable for you. Your friends may want to see you squirm a little bit. Let them punish you for a while. Don't act defensive, and don't make things worse by piling on.

Here's a basic rule of conduct. You might want to make a note of this and carry it around with you. Slip it in your diplomatic pouch. Remember this the next time you're tempted to criticize someone.

If you can't say anything nice about somebody, don't say anything at all.

Or at least, don't write it down.

Your friend (and I really mean that),

Amy

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